The restaurant business can be a stressful place to work for many people.
Being a line cook is a difficult job, and many new line cooks don’t know how to improve their performance at work.
With orders piling in, tongs flying, and a wait-list 10 parties deep, there’s no shortage of work to be done.
One of the keys to success in this business is staying focused and positive even when the night seems like it will never end.
Say you’re the grill cook for a 60-seat restaurant, and it’s now 6:00 PM, the very beginning of dinner service.
What can you do to help yourself stay focused and positive through the night?
It’s actually quite simple…
1) Be prepared
As basic and obvious as it sounds, many problems on the line pop up because someone is not fully prepared.
Take the time to assess your station: is there a pan only half full of lettuce for burgers?
Top it up then flip it into a new container (first in, first out). You have a full pan of burgers, but burgers are on special for the night.
Make a backup and stash it under your station for when you inevitably need a refill.
Fill up sauce bottles, get your saute pans lined up on the range, make sure all the prep from the day is out of the oven and off the line, even fill up your salt container.
You can never predict how busy it will be or what people will order the most of, so be prepared for anything.
2) Stay positive and focused
The other key is to stay positive.
Again, it sounds easy to do, but there are steps you can take to help ensure your attitude doesn’t take a downturn when you have a ticket pop up for 12 burgers of different temps halfway through the night.
Don’t fret about the onslaught of tickets coming in.
This is a mistake many new line cooks make; they start to get into the weeds, lose their focus, and stop putting plates in the window in a timely manner.
But this can be avoided. Keep in mind, you set yourself up for this, you have backups of everything, your station is full, you are as prepared as you can be.
The only thing left to do is make the food and sell it.
Keep your mind trained on your first few tickets and as you sell one, fire the food for another.
Trying to fire everything as it comes in is a way to set yourself up to fail; nobody is capable of plating and selling 15 things at a time.
Stick to what you feel able to do. If you’re on a station where the time from fire to sell is quick, you could even just focus on the first ticket or two.
As you grow as a line cook, you’ll be able to handle more at one time, but just be patient and do only what you feel comfortable with.
3) Pro tips
Some other small things to help you stay positive are eating before work (or at the family meal if your restaurant does that), cleaning up your station prior to service and putting everything in an easily reached location, and getting yourself a beverage or two to keep on your station while you work.
Staying hydrated will help keep you cool and comfortable even if you’re working an 800-degree pizza oven.
Attitude is everything in this business, and it is the only thing you have complete control over.
Set your station up for success, don’t get ahead of yourself, and stay hydrated.
You WILL survive the night, and many more nights, if you stay focused and don’t let the sound of the ticket machine stress you out.
Cooking on a line can be a very rewarding career, as demanding as it is, and the adrenaline rush of conquering another night is unbeatable.